The Chicago Transit Board today approved reassignment of a contract option currently belonging to Seattle’s King County Metro for the purchase of 150 articulated hybrid buses. The CTA would lease the 60-foot buses at a cost of $120 million. Given the uncertainty of CTA’s financial situation, the Chicago Transit Board gave permission only to explore financing for the lease agreement.
In May 2007, King County Metro awarded a contract to New Flyer Industries which contained options for the purchase of up to 715 hybrid articulated buses. However, King County planned only on utilizing approximately 500 buses for its own fleet. The remainder of the order is speculated to have been designated for Houston’s METRO, whom initially planned to “piggyback” King County’s order as a cost savings measure. However, when Houston backed down from their original plans, King County approached the CTA with an offer to pickup the contract options.
The CTA says that the lease agreement would result in significant cost savings. The hybrid technology would allow the agency to save more than $900,000 annually in fuel costs and nearly $7 million annually in maintenance and related expenses. Additionally, the contract would lock in savings of $60,000 on the purchase of each bus.
The buses would be powered by GM-Allison’s parallel hybrid drive system. During the CTA’s testing of two hybrid technologies, the 800-series GM-Allison parallel hybrids have thus far proved to be superior to the 900-series ISE-Siemens series hybrids.